It was a dairy day at our house today.
This morning, Sasha was in a nasty mood. Crabby, irritable, kicking – and worse, she managed to step in a pile of fresh manure just before milking, so those kicks were messy. Ugh. I did manage to get milk cleanly into the bucket – but there was a lot of washing and rewashing going on!
Once I got myself hosed off and into clean clothes, I decided today was a good day to try pasteurizing the milk. We’ve just had it raw before, and I still will do that some of the time, but my family are not all adapted to the taste of fresh raw milk, and I’m hoping pasteurization (plus watering it down some) will make it taste more like the store milk they are all accustomed to. I got out my cheese making kit – which was a gift from my husband almost two years ago and has sat unused because I wasn’t milking and didn’t want to make cheese with store milk – and found the thermometer it came with. Perfect for pasteurizing as it sits away from the side of the pan and reads the temperature of the liquid. Carla Emery told me what to do, and it was so simple!
Milk pasteurized, it was time to start on the cheese. I had to hunt around a bit for the rennet and cultures, but they were right where they ought to be, in the freezer. I had about 2 litres of milk ready for cheese making which is half a batch, according to the recipes in the kit, and I opted for feta as my first cheese: doesn’t need curing, and it’s something we like. Well, was that ever fun!
All you do is pasteurize the milk (that step is optional, actually, but I did this time as I wanted to be absolutely sure I was growing the right things in the milk culture) and then let it cool down to where it is just warm, add the culture and let it sit in the oven (which is just the right temperature, since ours has a pilot light) for an hour. After that hour, it’s turned into something like thick yogourt, and you slice it with a knife into chunks then give it a bit of a stir. Warm the oven briefly then shut it off and put the pot back in at the slightly warmer temperature, stirring every 10 minutes to help the cheese separate from the whey. Strain into a colander, and voila! Cheese! Add some salt, make the brine (feta soaks in salt water) and you’ve got fresh home made cheese.
The unsalted stuff tastes a lot like the paneer I often make (which is just milk scalded to just under boiling then mixed with a bit of vinegar until it curdles … strain it out and it’s cheese you can use in Indian sauces to make a quick and yummy supper). Salted, it tastes like … feta!
In further dairy adventures, I made butter from the cream I’d skimmed off all that milk.
Butter on the fork and in the jar on the lower left, buttermilk in the jar on the upper left. Carla says you can make cheese with the buttermilk too – which could be interesting!
And, just to round out today’s dairy adventures, I’m having kalvdans with crabapple jelly as I write this. It’s textured very much like cheesecake, actually, with the same sort of very plain flavour (I made it according to a local friend’s recipe – just cream and colostrum whipped together with some sugar, then baked like a custard). Cheesecake gets served with a fruit sauce, so I figured jelly would be a good quick substitute. Yum!
And now, of course, I’m tired and ready to sit down with my spindle and audio book and rest as the cool evening breeze comes in. We have a lot of smoke from some nearby wildfires (not dangerously nearby, but close enough we get the smoke) so I didn’t have the fans going all day today like I usually do. The smoke has eased up some now, though, so we can open up the windows and let the cool air in.